TORONTO, Canada—Monday is a good day for former Toronto FC employees it seems like.
Today, Major League Soccer officially announced the launch of MLS Next Pro, its new lower-division professional league that will see 20 MLS-affiliated teams (and one independent team co-owned by Leicester FC striker Jamie Vardy) compete in 2022.
The new league will aim to create a clear integrated player pathway from MLS NEXT — a league for younger academy teams — through to MLS first teams and offer young players and experienced professionals the opportunity to develop and showcase their talents while competing for an MLS NEXT Pro championship.
Toronto and Vancouver are two of the 21 teams that will debut in March.
Toronto will be one of 21 clubs that will compete in the 2022 inaugural MLS Next Pro season that will kick off in March with playoffs in September. The plan is for 8 additional MLS-affiliated teams will join MLS NEXT Pro in 2023. pic.twitter.com/OXMJr10Nas— Michael Singh (@MichaelSingh94) December 6, 2021
Toronto will also have ties to the league through its former General Manager Ali Curtis, who left the club in November just months after signing a multiyear contract extension to pursue this opportunity as Curtis was officially named Sr. Vice President of Competition and Operations of MLS Next Pro on Monday.
“I’m excited for the opportunity to join Charles (Altchek) in building and launching MLS NEXT Pro,” said Curtis in a press release. “MLS NEXT Pro will enhance the quality of all players, coaches, referees, and executives along the development pathway and it is an important step to the growth of the sport in North America leading up to the World Cup in 2026.”
For clarity sake, this will not be a promotion/relegation league in regards to MLS. In the past, MLS academy teams (like Toronto FC II) had competed in a variety of different leagues throughout Canada and the United States (like USL League One and the USL Championship). Now, there’s one structured league that the majority of MLS second teams will take part in, in hopes of creating a clear pathway for players to graduate from the academy teams to the first team.
MLS NEXT Pro will kick off its inaugural season in March, just one month after Major League Soccer action starts, and see its season culminate in postseason action in September. The full 2022 match schedule and competition details will be announced at a later date.
For more information about MLS NEXT Pro, visit www.mlsnextpro.com.